How VPNs Can Shield Nigerian Users from Government – An Interview with the VP of ExpressVPN

"Outrage as Buhari bans Twitter." Image sourced from Reuters.

5 June, on a brisk Friday evening, the Nigerian government sought to indefinitely ban users in the country from accessing social media network Twitter.

A decision based on the government’s reaction to the service’s deletion of a Tweet that was posted from President Muhammadu Buhari’s official Twitter account. In an official statement, the government declared that Twitter was “undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”

The Tweet in question, believed to have been posted by Buhari himself, had been referring to the bloody two-year-long Nigeria-Biafra war. A conflict that saw the deaths of an estimated one to three million people, mostly of the Igbo ethnic group. Many users felt the Tweet was offensive and flagged it down for Twitter to review.

Outrage followed as Nigerian users were warned that accessing Twitter in any way would lead to criminal prosecution.

Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami directed the country’s Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF) to “swing into action and commence in earnest the process of prosecution of violators of the Federal Government’s De-activation of operations of Twitter in Nigeria.”

While Nigerian lawmakers are still questioning the legality of the ban, many users believe that it could be the beginning of a series of authoritarian moves into a stricter Nigerian online space. Internationally speaking, the country’s Twitter ban provides another example of how a non-policed internet continues to be at risk.

With this, ITNA’s Luis Monzon had to opportunity to reach out to Harold Li, VP of ExpressVPN to discuss how VPNs can aid Nigerian users in accessing free and non-policed internet experiences. Experiences where users who pay for their internet can access whatever they want whenever they want without fear of Big Brother allegedly watching over their shoulder.

Here’s what transpired:

1. Many Nigerian users may feel unsafe using VPNs to access services like Twitter. The government has outlawed accessing the website in all of its forms under the pain of prosecution.

What guarantees can ExpressVPN give to assuage users that the government cannot trace their activities through the VPN?

ExpressVPN believes that everyone is entitled to digital privacy and internet accessibility as human rights. We will continue to speak out and encourage others to do so.

Last weekend we saw more than a 200% increase in web traffic from Nigeria. User privacy is of the utmost importance to us, and our systems are designed to not contain any sensitive data about our customers.

We do not collect any logs of activity, browsing history, data content, connection timestamp or session duration. Even if we were to be compelled, we cannot provide data that we do not have.

 2. Technology like VPNs are still relatively new, especially in Africa, how exactly do VPNs work to protect the online privacy of users?

A VPN is first and foremost a security tool that protects users from online snooping, interference, and censorship.

When users connect to one of our secure VPN servers, their internet traffic goes through an encrypted tunnel that nobody can see into, including hackers, governments, and your internet service provider.

ExpressVPN’s service is built from the ground up to provide the best protection possible, including ensuring that our servers do not contain personal data about anyone’s online activity. We discuss our commitment to protecting our users’ privacy and policy of not collecting activity or connection logs in greater detail here on our website.

Please also refer to our highly detailed and transparent Privacy Policy.

 3. ExpressVPN has grown exceedingly popular across the globe. Why are more and more users seeking, and willing to pay for, foolproof access to private internet experiences?

A premium VPN like ours represents a tremendous value that users are willing to pay for:

We offer split tunnelling on most major platforms, allowing users to connect only specific apps or devices to the VPN. Most of our competitors still lack this feature.

Our router app is one of the few on the market, and still the easiest to set up and use. It not only delivers always-on protection on an unlimited number of devices but also enables users to protect devices that don’t natively support VPN.

We have dedicated engineering resources focused on unblocking dozens of geo-restricted services and staying ahead of internet censors in key countries.

A VPN can only protect you if you can get it up and work for you! Our responsive, effective, round-the-clock customer support is here to help, including 24/7 live chat support where customers get a response in under 20 seconds on average.

ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer technology allows our servers to run on RAM only, not on hard drives—this guarantees that all software and data on a server is wiped on every reboot, significantly minimizing any risk that servers could contain sensitive user information and adding an additional layer of protection for users.

We have been working on a new VPN protocol, called Lightway, that will serve as the foundation for a dramatically improved VPN experience. Most VPN providers use the same off-the-shelf protocols, but now ExpressVPN has engineered its own and it’s now under beta-testing.

[ExpressVPN has been] audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers twice—an audit in 2019 to check that ExpressVPN’s servers were in compliance with our privacy policy, and one in 2020 to confirm that our build verification processes system which sharply reduces the risk that could result in our inadvertent distribution of malware to our customers. We also published results of Cure53’s security audit of our open-source browser extensions in 2019

 4. What other benefits can users expect from VPNs other than online privacy?

In an era when we conduct even the most crucial or sensitive parts of our lives online, VPNs are critical tools for protecting our digital privacy and security.

They increase your anonymity online, shield your online activity from being monitored by ISPs and governments, and defend your data from hackers on shared networks such as public Wi-Fi hotspots.

In places where internet access is censored or otherwise controlled, VPNs help protect your rights online by enabling access to blocked sites and services.

 5. How can users in Nigeria gain access to ExpressVPN?

To access ExpressVPN users just need to:

  1. Visit the order page and pick the option best suited for them. All of ExpressVPN’s plans are fully covered by our 30-day-money-back guarantee.
  2. Download our VPN app. After filling out the information, the user will be invited to download the app for the device they are using. Our app is compatible with most devices.
  3. Once the app is downloaded, simply hit the “On Button” and they will be instantly connected to the best location for their connection. Users can also select a location from our global network.

Our 24/7 support team is also available to answer any questions that users may have.

By Luis Monzon
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